Thursday, August 25, 2016

Protest

I reached for a stone to throw
into the stagnant pond
to leave a dark hole in the skin
of green-brown crud.  I knew the wound
would almost instantly seal over.
I knew that throwing the rock
would make a satisfying plunk
but would ultimately change nothing.
I knew that it would take more than a stone
to get the water flowing,
to make this place a home for creatures
other than midges and mosquitoes.
I threw it anyways.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pagoda

We sprawled out on the sofa bed in the living room
of your stepfather's house
watched Requiem for a Dream I wanted to touch
your creamy skin but you were frozen
and I knew that if we touched that I would freeze too.
You'd loved morphine but not for a long time
and a little ways above us perched on the top of the hill
was the pagoda that looked out over the city
built over a hundred years earlier
as part of a resort that never materialized.
In its topmost story, an 18th century bell
brought to Pennsylvania from a Japanese temple.
Though my grandparents had lived just across town,
they'd only taken us to the pagoda once,
climbed up the seven stories to the top, I remember there being
a little local history museum inside.
In your backyard your stepfather had installed
a koi pond. You couldn't forgive him for the things he did
years ago but you had nowhere else to go
and just as I reached across the expanse to touch
your tattooed wrist your youngest started crying upstairs
The next day your stepfather drove me home, we sat
in the backseat for the hour drive and didn't touch once.
Years later of course other things happened
between us, and all those things piled up
roof upon roof upon roof of the pagoda
towering over the city, a decorative exotic building
that doesn't really belong there, a building
visible for miles that everyone has affection for
but no one really knows what to do with.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pluots

Cattle cluster around the bases of the windmills
that cast their oversized shadows across
the straw-colored slopes. In the ditches,
backhoes and dump trucks huddle.
A plaster statue of a sea captain
grins at the highway, welcoming us to the arid expanses
of the San Joaquin Valley.
We drive through miles of apricot groves
and stop at a stand to buy a bushel of pluots.
We stop again in Oakdale for coffee,
parking illegally in the handicap space
in a strip mall while my friend runs into Starbucks.
I stare out the passenger side window.
A pretty green-haired girl in a flowery summer dress
with a service dog takes off her sunglasses
and steps into the Starbucks.
There is a sticker slapped on the front of the
hadicap parking sign that reads SHARK SMEER,
which I assume is the name of a band,
though I turn out to be wrong about that.
A sign in the window of the Supercuts reads
"Ask us about the tea tree experience."
A pudgy cowboy waddles in just as
my friend comes bursting out, cursing the incompetence
of all human beings, baffled that our species
has made it this far. I hand him a pluot
and take one myself. They are juicy but don't
taste like anything.

Event Horizon

She whooshes into the lobby, leaving shimmering trails
of stardust in her wake, grasping a handful of necklaces
she says she found outside the strip club. Thrusts them at me
and gingerly I finger coral, amethyst, lapis lazuli.
Her bones shine through her skin. She was recently beautiful
but today I smell urine, booze, cigarettes, let her use the bathroom
even though it's against the rules. She disappears too long
but I don't have the heart to knock on the door. I check my watch
and wait for her to emerge from her cocoon.

A series of nested craters open up beneath her. Her skin erupts
with fibers so fine she cannot see them. She squints and plucks
and scratches and every day there's a new crop. Doctors nod
without looking up from their screens, friends laugh, family frets.
Or they used to. Sludgy syrup coagulates in the sockets.
Gray soap scum collects under the fingernails. A rusty splash
dances across her retina, a brown gash splitting the planet in two.
Time becomes a slender filament knotted to her accelerating fingertips.
She can still hear the distant suck and swirl, the whoosh of a galaxy
being flushed into oblivion, taking with it wisps of plasma and ash
and pulverized diamonds, potato chip crumbs and sanitary napkins
and crumpled aluminum foil compressed into an impossibly dense
particle then turned inside out and boiled until it bubbles.

There's a scrap of rawhide she's been gnawing on for months.
There's a soup can full of marbles. There's gum squashed
beneath the sink. There's a brain-eating amoeba
reaching for the knob on a door that has no latch and no chain
and no deadbolt just a keyhole large enough to drive
a Subaru through on the way to the chop shop.
There's a pair of lace panties hanging off the horn
of the crescent moon, she swears they're not hers.
There's a tiny black blob balancing on her fingertip,
it squirms away every time she tries to squish it.

The milky orb darkens she closes her fingers around it
and slips it down the front of her jeans. She needs a belt,
everything's sagging, sliding, bunching up. Eclipse follows
eclipse, moon and sun take turns blotting one another out,
her throat burns fire and brimstone, crystal and coal, she bends over
clutching her stomach, confessing the secret to eternal life
all over her sneakers.

A thousand years later she bursts out of the rest room
and strides past the desk and my mummified husk
into the bright cold sunlight of the dying universe.
The day is a thousand black balloons deflating
she crushes glass beneath her feet, asphalt tries to trap her soles
The red constellation of her mind burns out star by star
leaving nothing but a bare clothesline stretched across
the vacant lot of the sky.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peonies

His smile writhes with life, a smile full of eels,
with maggots instead of teeth, his throat a burrow
for a thousand wriggling fingers he digs
into the brick and begins to scale
the side of the building, nails finding purchase
in the mortar, while all about him
pale pink peonies tumble through the air,
dropped from above to plop heavily to the ground, he leaves
a sticky trail behind him as he climbs, bits of skin
and hair clinging to the wall in his wake,
wet scabs, petals like peeled eyelids, scraps
of glue-encrusted velvet, he reaches the roof
and squats and drops his pants and lets loose
a stream of nectar that drips down toward
the sidewalk, spelling out his signature
in steaming cursive across the scattered blossoms.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Poppyseeds

A black SUV circles the parking lot
from its underside dangle a number of socks
filled with something heavy, a dozen of them swaying as the car
makes its turns slick as oil
bumping together like heavy dugs, brown with grease,
nearly but never quite grazing the asphalt except
when the vehicle hits a speed bump.
The windows are tinted and the driver's eyes are shielded
by mirrored shades and the back seat is filled
with a pile of garbage bags filled with adult diapers.
The only storefront in the strip mall that is not vacant
 is the bagel place where I sit, trying not to ogle
the fresh-faced college girls behind the counter
with their ponytails swishing from the backs of their sports caps
Instead I stare out the window, watching those black birds circle,
watching the clouds bunch up and disperse
and bunch up again, watching the SUV pass
every five to seven minutes. I absently stir my coffee
and fail to notice the time or the pink glob
of salmon-flavored cream cheese clinging to my
mustache, though I notice it now, now that it's too late.
Don't ask me how I know what's in those garbage bags
in the back seat, or why I don't know what's in
the socks, or what I think their purpose is. Instead, ask me how
my bagel was, or what flavor. Ask me which one
of these freckled girls is my favorite. Ask me anything
not related to that car out there, or why the driver
shoots me a grin every time he drives past.

Barracuda

You dive into the squawk of interference
ricocheting off the walls of the echo chamber
overlapping voices, coherency chopped and wadded
into cacophony, speech scrambled rising in pitch
and volume before finally flattening out
into a sea of static.
A mesh of text ensnares drifting ideas garbled
into a slurry of glossolalia. Do you choose
to add to the torrent with your babble,
or do you paddle through it with your lips
shut tightly, listening for a sound that floats
gently through the tumult, for a voice
that clearly enunciates a single shining sentence
that cuts like a silver fish
gliding through the current?